A few days ago Amazon released their offering in the streaming box arena (what is sometimes referred to as a set-top box). It’s called Fire TV, and it’s creating quite the buzz.
The competition is fierce in this area, with solutions from Apple, Roku and Google already established as the go-to guys. At $99, the price matches Apple TV and Roku 3, and to be honest we really can’t compare it to Google’s Chromecast at $35. Not a cost comparison, but the lack of Chromecast’s features.
But to me, the game changer here is Fire TV’s support for existing Android apps (from Amazon), and most importantly, Plex, which is supported right out of the gate. Apple TV has no officially supported Plex client, and Roku’s UI gives me a splitting headache. The Plex client for Fire TV is Plex for Android, and it’s already been around for a while, and the UI is excellent. Not Plex Home Theater excellent, mind you, but better than Roku.
For a while, Roku has been the easiest (and cheapest) way to get Plex on your TV. I purchased Rokus for my father and father-in-law, which allows them to see the content I share with them via Plex. I still prefer to run Mac minis on my TVs, but I am seriously considering this Fire TV as a future Plex client when my minis can’t cut it anymore (seeing as how they are pushing 5 years old).
The majority of 1-2 star reviews for Fire TV complain that you cannot access your local media (via DLNA or otherwise). I would imagine that the vast majority of Fire TV users are obtaining their content from providers like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Crackle, etc. But, for those individuals that have local content, Plex is the answer. All it requires is that you install Plex Media Server (free) on your supported Mac, Windows, or NAS device, and purchase the Plex for Android app for the Fire TV. Once you setup Plex Media Server with all of your media, it presents itself beautifully on the Fire TV Plex for Android app.
Now, if I can gripe for just a moment here.
I recently tried out the Roku Streaming Stick. It’s a great little device, but again, the interface is horrible. Netflix looks pretty good on it, but that’s about it. Amazon Instant Video and Plex channels share the same common look and feel. It’s difficult to browse content, and it’s plainly not fun to use.
The positive, however, is that it’s a stick. It plugs right into your HDMI port, with the power being drawn from the TV’s USB port. If your TV doesn’t have a USB port, you can plug it into a regular power outlet with the included adapter. I would love to see a similar solution from Amazon. I’m all about less clutter. If I can have a TV hanging on the wall with no devices dangling from it, or power cords junking up my living room, I’m a happy camper. I’d be fine with giving up ethernet, optical audio and USB if I could have a Fire TV stick.
All this being said, I’m going to hold off a bit longer to see what Apple’s answer will be. If they release an Apple TV stick that supports iOS apps (including Plex), with a remote and game control via iOS devices… that… that would be awesome.
This has been today’s Clarified Butter.